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  In Belleville, Priest Says He Is a Sex Addict

Associated Press, carried in St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
December 8, 1994

Monsignor Joseph Schwaegel was arrested for attempted sexual misconduct, but he rose to become pastor of the largest parish in the Belleville Catholic Diocese a year later in 1988.

Then, after a four years at St. Peter's Cathedral, Schwaegel resigned so he could be treated for "stress and anxiety."

Now, he says he resigned because "I am a sex addict."

Schwaegel's revelation, reported Wednesday in the Belleville News-Democrat, is the latest controversy in the Southern Illinois diocese. Eleven priests and a deacon there are under investigation for possible sexual misconduct.

A priest for nearly 30 years, Schwaegel previously was vice chancellor of the diocese and secretary to two former bishops.

He was arrested in 1987 for felony attempted sexual misconduct at a highway rest area in St. Louis County, according to court records. He pleaded guilty and got a year's probation.

Schwaegel also was arrested seven months ago for sexual misconduct after offering sex to an undercover officer at a rest stop in St. Louis County, said Detective Ed Vitt.

The county prosecuting attorney's office has no record of the case.

Bishop Wilton Gregory was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The Rev. James Margason, vicar general in Belleville, released a statement that said: "Joe Schwaegel is still a priest. He has been on leave since September 1992. While he is on leave, he cannot perform any public priestly function. The bishop will not reassign him."

Schwaegel was treated at a Maryland hospital for addictions and returned to Belleville.

Schwaegel said, "This situation gives me the opportunity to say as some people are alcohol addicts, some are drug addicts, I am a sex addict." He said that his actions involved adults.

The diocese has removed 11 priests from their ministries in the past two years because of allegations of sexual misconduct. Schwaegel was not among them.

"I am baring my soul," Schwaegel said. "I think it is very important for people to understand that I did not choose to be an addict. No one does."

 
 

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